Writing Prompts

by | May 6, 2019 | General, Writing Exercise | 4 comments

by Ashley Lister

Whenever we’re asked the question ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ a lot of us puzzle over our response. To most of the writers I know ideas aren’t the problem: finding the time to commit those ideas to paper is the real problem.

However, I’m aware that some people do search for inspiration and I’m hoping the following list of 13 questions might prove to be a useful resource to inspire ideas.

I found this list maybe a decade ago on the internet, and have chopped it and changed it to suit purposes in classes over the years. I no know where the list came from but I’m grateful to the original author for them sharing it online.

a) Do you believe honesty is the best policy?
b) List 5 people you know. Then describe each of them in 5 words.
c) If you could have anyone locked in a room so that you could torment them for a day, whom would you choose, and how would you torment them?
d) Would you be willing to have horrible nightmares every night for a year if you would be rewarded with extraordinary wealth?
e) Would you enjoy spending a month of solitude in a beautiful natural setting? Food and shelter would be provided but you would not see another person.
f) If you could have one superpower, which would you choose?
g) Which of the four seasons do you most anticipate?
h) Would you be willing to become extremely ugly physically if it meant you would live for 1,000 years at any physical age you chose?
i) Who would you most like to be stuck in an elevator with? Least like?
j) You can select one person from history and ask them a question to which they must give a truthful reply. Whom would you select, and what question would you ask?
k) If you could bring one character to life from your favourite book, who would it be?
l) Would you be willing to commit perjury in court for a close friend? What if your lie would save his life?
m) What dead person would you least want to be haunted by?

With the above list, don’t simply answer yes, no, or insert the name of your least favourite politician where appropriate. Give each one a little thought and see if the answer doesn’t provide the kernel of an idea.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. lisabet Sarai

    This is an intriguing list, Ash. I’m especially drawn to the questions that have a built-in conflict, like d), h) and l).

  2. Rose B. Thorny

    A lot of these would make great yarns, especially if the writer, in the process of moving the story forward, was able to further the plot by exploring the unforeseen consequences of fulfilling a particular wish or scenario.

    Rose 😉

    • Ashley Lister


      This is why I like these prompts so much. I also love the fact that, even if a handful of writers started with the same prompt, they’d each come up with a completely different story.


  3. Ashley Lister

    Lisabet –

    As writers, I think we find the prospect of ready-made conflict irresistible.


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